Bakers increasingly are looking for depositing equipment that outperforms older machines. New on the market are highly versatile systems that are easy to maintain and highly accurate.
Keeping up with an increasingly competitive marketplace has sent many bakers on the road to automation armed with shopping lists of equipment, targeting their burgeoning production needs. High on many agendas are newly developed depositing systems that allow quick changeovers, a high degree of flexibility and wash-down convenience.
According to Stewart Macpherson, vice president, sales and marketing at Canada-based Unifiller Systems Inc., bakers are looking for depositors that are simple to use, and easy to clean and maintain. In addition, demand has increased for “accurate control resulting in product consistency,” he says. “One important point to note is that due to increasing labor costs, depositors are providing much-needed automation and portion control. Flexibility for quicker product change is required in the depositor design,” he adds.
“Customers will continue to look towards purchasing machines that are manufactured for 2-3 shifts-per-day production, ease of changeover from one product line to another and the most limited amount of cleanup and disassembly time required,” says Lance Aasness, vice president, sales and marketing, Hinds-Bock Corp., Redmond, Wash. “Depositors will continue to be very flexible with the different product viscosities they can handle and they must have a very high rate of accuracy,” he adds.
Hinds-Bock single- and dual-piston depositors are widely used for fruit fillings, berries, vegetables and purees. Large port openings permit filling of chunky ingredients without crushing, and gentle internal passages make the machines ideal candidates for delicate products. Additional automation, such as container denesters, lidders, sealers and transfer pumps, are available.
In addition, Aasness says bakers increasingly are demanding depositing systems “that require very little time to clean up by having minimal parts that need to be removed.”
Eric Riggle, vice president, Rademaker USA Inc., Hudson, Ohio, concurs that bakers are looking for versatile depositors that are easily cleaned, provide quick changeover and high deposit rates. “The trend will always be speed and accuracy,” Riggle says. “The fillings are more expensive than the dough they are being put on. In addition, there are filling types that have large particulates that need to be treated with care. On top of all this, the client wants flexibility in the depositor so that it can run a wide range of fillings. In addition, a machine must be easy to clean and maintain.”
Rademaker produces three types of depositors: piston systems, gearwheel depositors and the Mohno pump depositor. The piston depositor is a lower-cost solution that can handle a wide variety of fillings. On the negative side, the piston has a lower capacity/throughput and more components that need to be accounted for during maintenance.
The gearwheel depositor is a high-speed machine designed for depositing a very accurate spot, discontinuous strip, or continuous deposit of smooth filling (pieces smaller than ¼ in.). Its key advantages are that it is easy to clean, has very few moving parts and higher deposit rates than the piston depositor. However, the unit is not designed for larger particulate filings.
The Mohno pump depositor is a very gentle depositor for large particulate fillings in a variety of deposit types (spot, strip, continuous). Augers feed the filling into a pump, which then feeds the various depositing nozzles. Owing to the pump design, bakers can run each row independently of the others. As an example, while a spot deposit is running on lanes 1-3, a strip deposit can run on lanes 4-6, and continuous deposit on lanes 7-12 if desired.
Independent row control also allows the depositor to be tied into a sensor that enables it to run as a no-product/no fill. This means that if there is no product to deposit on, that row does not waste filling on the pan or conveyor belt.
As to the future, Riggle says customers “will continue to push the envelope in regards to filling types at a wide variety of depositing weights. Ultimately, no matter what depositing choice the customer makes, the benefit of choosing the right depositor is weight control accuracy of an expensive filling,” he adds.
According to Rick Hoskins, vice president of operations at Lake Forest, Ill.-based Colborne Corp., improved scale accuracy is the most important trend in depositing systems. “However, quicker changeover and easy sanitation are right up there.” Because bakery foods are sold by weight, the less accurate the depositor, the greater the tendency to overfill. “That translates to giving away product,” he says.
“Quicker changeover is important because bakers are starting to run more [products] on one line,” Hoskins adds. “They can’t afford to be down for an extended period of time. This same logic applies to sanitation. They want it to be quick,” he says.
Hoskins says that equipment currently on the market to fill the need for accuracy are depositors “that interface with a scale system, however that is rarely economical from a throughput standpoint,” he says. “The next most accurate from a repeatability standpoint is a positive displacement pump where you have two lobes running in concert that meter the product.”
New Lenox, Ill.-based NuTEC Manufacturing claims to have improved the depositing process. The company’s C-Frame attains throughput of up to 45,000 deposits per hour, the company says. The system’s feed system uses a rotating spiral that moves the product to a rotary vane pump. The equipment is 100 percent hydraulic, which the company says reduces downtime, minimizes maintenance and lowers repair costs.
“Because we use a rotary vane pump, we have excellent weight control of plus or minus a gram,” says Jeff Regan, tooling engineer at NuTEC. “There’s no vacuum so there’s no destruction of product integrity. The rotary vane pump gently grabs the product and brings it down to the mould plate. The plate comes down and the product is knocked out. Each stroke lands in the same location, always a consistent weight, always the same size.”
As bakers contend with rising labor costs and increasing demand for variety, depositing systems have become a key upgrade. New systems are versatile, easily maintained and cleaned, and accurate beyond their predecessors. For any baker looking to increase productivity and consistency while lowering labor costs, examining the latest depositing systems is a prudent option.